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Know of any youth who have won an award or have a recent accomplishment? Send in your news on youth to Shephali J. Rele, Khaas Baat, 18313 Cypress Stand Circle, Tampa, FL 33647 or e-mail [email protected]. Be sure to include school name, grade and age.
Youth Highlight         Send your youth highlight

By NITISH S. RELE [email protected]

Rohini Komarla deserves a pat on the back. Make that two. No, wait a minute. Make that 17. That�s the Tampa teen�s age as well as the name of the magazine, which in its February issue (available on newsstands now) featured the youth as a winner in its All Stars contest. The award is given to 20 girls who are between 13- and 17-year-old for being good role models because of school activities, community service and academic success. �

This senior in King High School�s International Baccalaureate program has been volunteering at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa for four years now. She has more than 1,000 hours of volunteer service to her credit. �

�I have become acquainted with a lot of patients during this period,� she told Khaas Baat. �I noticed that in the hospital waiting areas, there were magazines, newspapers and television but no proper entertainment. I myself love movies and so I decided to raise money ($4,000 and still counting) to serve the entertainment needs of the patients.� �

Rohini Komarla has been featured in the February issue of Seventeen magazine for being a good role model because of school activities, community service and academic success. Story, page 4.
After speaking with a volunteer coordinator and technical folks at Moffitt, Rohini bought portable DVD players, magazines, movies and games to be placed on wooden entertainment cards for patients to borrow. �

She was nominated for the Seventeen role model pick by her elder sister, Ashwini, 21. The trip to New York City to do a photo shoot for the magazine �was fun,� she said. �It was a shock at first but the employees at Seventeen made us feel great.� �

Future plans? �I would like to become a doctor, specializing in oncology or sports medicine,� she replied. In the meantime, her hobbies include Indian classical dancing, American dance and journalism. She is editor of her school�s newspaper, Specter. �

And yes, her Moffitt entertainment cart volunteer project is ongoing. She is accepting donations payable to Moffitt Cancer Center � Entertainment Project, 12902 Magnolia Drive, Tampa, FL 33612-9416. �

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By Teesta Sullivan

Racism and discrimination are ugly words that do not seem appropriate topics for dinnertime conversations; however, it behooves us to discuss these. It is foolish to believe that your children will never face discrimination.

One of the unexpected by products of the 9/11 attacks is the discrimination that many of Middle-eastern descent now face. For many Americans, it became difficult to differentiate between the face of fellow Americans, and the face of the terrorists flashed across the television screens. Indian Americans may now find that we fit the �visual profile� of a terrorist.

Keep the lines of communication open with your children. Ask if they have ever found themselves in a situation in which their ethnicity made them stand out. Addressing a situation may be as simple as suggesting to the teacher that the class celebrate an International Day, or spends time focusing on some of the cultures represented in the classroom. However, if you discover that an adult has made inappropriate comments, pursue the appropriate avenues.

Teesta Sullivan

If you find that your child has been a victim of discrimination, restrain yourself from showing anger. It is important to acknowledge that your child�s feelings have been hurt, and that this pain is valid; however, it also is important that you reinforce to your child that although the aggressor was not �nice,� they may not necessarily be �bad.� They may be ignorant or misinformed. Be especially certain to reassure your child that they are not in any way to blame.

Encourage your child to be assertive and stand up for himself. No one wants their child to be picked on, but we will not always be able to step in for them, and we need to give them the tools to stand up for themselves. Of course, we must be prepared to step in and protect our child, if necessary.

Let your child know that it is OK to tell someone, �I don�t like it when you say that.� Let them know it is normal to feel angry or hurt if discriminated against. It is not unusual to entertain thoughts of revenge against the antagonist; however, we must reinforce that just because someone says something hurtful, the best response is not to act out in kind or physically.

As parents, we must be aware of our own stereotypes. Have you ever made a comment about �women drivers?� or �those people?� Statements of this sort give the message that an entire segment of the population can be characterized in a certain manner. The natural progression from this type of statement is prejudice against a group. It is easy to forget that our children are like sponges, taking in everything we say, examining it, and filing it away.

Children need to know that people act as individuals. There are members of many societies who behave poorly. One individual�s actions should not be the standard by which you measure a group.

Encourage your children to learn about their own background and culture. Celebrate your family history. When did you first come to the States? Where were your grandparents born? Our Indian students have an advantage over many American students in that they are often more aware of their backgrounds than many of their classmates. India boasts a rich history and culture. Celebrate it with your children. Let it be a source of pride.

The following is an excerpt from a conversation between a 6-year-old girl and a 4-year- old boy. �You can�t paint the sun green, it�s supposed to be yellow;� �I can make it green if I want to;� �That�s stupid;� �You don�t have to have a green sun, but you should respect my green sun.�

What a grounding moment to realize once again how much I can learn from a child.

We don�t have to agree, but we should respect.

Teesta Sullivan has a JD, a MSH and B.A. in Psychology. She is the area developer for FasTracKids and also president of Legendary Beginnings Inc., an authorized licensee of FasTracKids. She can be reached at (813) 908-5437.

Know of any youth who have won an award or have a recent accomplishment? Send in your news on youth to Shephali J. Rele, Khaas Baat, 18313 Cypress Stand Circle, Tampa, FL 33647 or e-mail [email protected]. Be sure to include school name, grade and age.

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